The celebrations of Liverpool fans have barely finished following their Champions League triumph over Tottenham and yet players will shortly be returning for their pre-season preparations and the transfer dealings will hit full speed.
Last year we saw a newly promoted side – Wolves – won over the heart of many neutral fans with their style of play and results, we saw a relegation battle that often saw Cardiff manager Neil Warnock in press conference top form and an enthralling title race. It ended with Liverpool setting a record for best runner up – not a record anyone wants, by the way, but that’s over.
So, what can we look forward to during the 2019/20 campaign? Here’s five things to look out for.
5 – A HAZARD-OUS SITUATION AT THE BRIDGE
On paper, Chelsea had a reasonable season last time out; they finished third behind the runaway pair Liverpool and Man City and added the Europa League to their trophy cabinet. Yet not a single tear has been shed over Maurizio Sarri leaving for Juventus. It looks increasingly likely that former midfielder and Frank Lampard will take the reins, but he’ll be up against it.
Their standout man, Eden Hazard, has departed for Real Madrid and a transfer embargo means any incoming manager will be forced to utilise the youth players in the ranks. They have secured Christian Pulisic though, but it is not clear if the American is enough to fill the Belgian’s ‘heavy’ boots.
Lampard will embrace that side of things and it will be interesting to see unfold – after all, it will be a somewhat different approach to the other seasons under Roman Abramovich’s ownership.
4 – NEW STADIUM, SAME OLD TEAM
A select few were lucky enough to visit Tottenham’s new ground at the back end of last season but the forthcoming campaign will be the first full year at the new White Hart Lane. The stadium is more than just a place to view football and contains Michelin standard restaurants, its own brewery and the longest bar in Europe to name just a few features.
Spurs will hope to extend their global appeal by hosting concerts and NFL matchups in October. They’ll need to use all that ‘spin’ to get new signings in the door, because based on the last two windows they won’t splash mega bucks and they won’t be competing on wages either. Eriksen is the one of the front door to leave and to replace the versatile Danish midfielder, who is on route to Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos is likely to be the one coming to London.
The Spaniard who is currently at under 21 Euro, is reportedly going to be included in the deal for Christian Eriksen, so Tottenham can bag 50 million and a promising youngster for the same position. Doesn’t seem that bad of a deal if Daniel Levy, their chairman, can pull this through and they can use the cash to get another player Pochettino desires: Tanguy Ndombele, an anchor-man from Lyon. Killing two birds with one stone?! We’ll have to keep an eye on this business during next weeks.
3 – NEW LOOK UNITED
When the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ left Manchester United just before Christmas he remained uncharacteristically tight lipped on the matter. However, reading between the lines would suggest he felt there were bigger issues at the club than the manager – regardless of who it was.
A hot streak under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer buried those red flags, but an end of season form collapse brought them waving back. Solskjaer is looking to build a side for the long term rather than buy instant success and, if the board agree to finance the deals, we could see an influx of young British talent at Old Trafford next season. So far only Championship wonderkid Daniel James has been confirmed to be joining the squad.
Of course, players will leave too; Romelu Lukaku looks destined to go and Inter Milan seems the likely destination and Paul Pogba has expressed his desire to move on as well. It could be the start of a new era for the Red Devils as they might have to accept, they are no longer a dominant force in Europe, especially after players allegedly rejecting to join them. De Ligt and Bruno Fernandes were targeted but they don’t seem keen to play Europa League next season. How will this unfold?
2 – CITY FOR THREE IN A ROW?
Manchester City and Liverpool were the standout teams last year and there is no way anyone will close the gap to make the title race anything more than a two-horse race. Liverpool had the season of their life in the year just gone but even that couldn’t pip Pep and his men. It’s hard to see anyone toppling them this year as well.
With all City have achieved they’re still looking to strengthen. Rodri from Atletico looks like will be their first signing, to provide backup for Fernandinho, and they will probably get another fullback, with Joao Cancelo from Juventus being the preferred one. Even without Vincent Kompany in their ranks it looks set to be three on the bounce – a stat only city rivals United can currently boast.
1 – A STEP TOO VAR?
The big change for the campaign is the introduction of VAR – video referee technology – in all Premier League fixtures. One of the initial concerns was that it would take the controversy – and therefore talking points – out of the game. As evidenced from the Champions League, FA cup and Carabao cup, that has not happened.
You don’t need a crystal ball to predict a season of overturned decisions, berated referees, infuriated managers and, of course, excitement. Who knows, VAR might even give Liverpool the edge in the title race?!
There you have it, five things to keep an eye on during the Premier League season. It might be unpredictable; it might have you chewing your fingernails and screaming obscenities from time to time but the truth is we love it and can’t wait for the action to begin.